I love data, art, science and technology. My knowledge of these is limited however I know just enough to comprehend their potential and to dream about integrating bits, bytes and gadgets into an interactive air quality art installation.
Last summer I was accused of trespassing! Oui! Moi!
It was a really hot summer day, a 40C, humid, poor air quality alert day where you are supposed to reduce your physical activity to a snail’s pace and you are warned that it is dangerous to be out if you have any form of respitory illness, are elderly or a baby. A few weeks earlier a neighbour, mother of two teenagers, died of an asthma attack on one of these days and i recall many late night ambulance driver & fire fighter visits bringing my son oxygen.
In the COOP’s parking lot, sat an old 1970’s brown van idling, its windows open & no driver in sight. Around the corner on Booth Street, the commuter street to Gatineau, is bumper to bumper traffic. Each car with only one impatient driver, no passengers, windows closed, AirCon blasting, with cumulative expulsions of exhaust getting trapped under the tree canopies and dust particles from the Lebreton Flats soil rehabilitation endeavour thickening the air. This is the spot where i engage in a small piece of urban beautification - the place where i garden. 15 minutes later, after weeding and counting single driver commuter cars, the van is still idling. I reach into the window and turn it off.
Busted! A bunch of "pox on your family" type of threats later, I am labeled an irrational radical, a trespasser! Sheesh!
3C is slap in the middle of the range that the ultra-conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is most likely. A draft of their report, leaked by the US government, says greenhouse gas levels are at their highest for 650,000 years.
This human made phenomena:
- will mean that half the world’s wildlife reserves and corals will have gone,
- tropical forests will dry up,
- and perhaps a billion people will starve.
- it could trigger the melting of the Greenland ice cap,
- the destabilization of the Antarctic Ocean current system
- and "irreversible system disruptions" (re-crazy weather!)
- malarial mosquitoes will be able to breed permanently in the north
- cement-eating termites move into northern cellars
- and so on
if emissions are not cut, sea levels will rise 43cm by 2100, and go on rising after that for 200 more years.
and most of the world’s islands and coastal states and cities will be flooded, become unbearable, and wild wind & rain storms push infrastructures to the limit. Plus Rien as les Cowboys Frangrants de Montreal would say! And i am a radical irrational tresspasser! oh la!
Bref, we humans are smart stupid beings, with lots of data, science and knowledge who can’t seem to modify behaviour!
I refuse to give up though and will continue to:
- turn off idling cars,
- inform idling drivers about the City’s Anti Idling Bylaw and let them know they could get fined in a friendly community service sorta voice,
- pass around the NRCAN no idling campaign brochures,
- ride my bike,
- participate in critical masses
- continue to call into radio stations that tell the vulnerable to stay home, to instead request that drivers take transit and not idle.
But that is just not enough!
By the end of the summer my already limited diplomacy is significantly challenged by the tyranny of it all.
So, I wanna do something on the corner of Booth and Albert. That infamous commuter intersection between Hull (Gatineau) and Ottawa. Along the road that moves public servants back and forth across the Ottawa River between two provinces (see the Zone 4 City Booth & Lebreton Intersection WebCam), near the busy transitway full of racing buses, and the route with the Chaudiere Gov. Buildings, the Domtar Paper Plant, and War Museum to the north and Natural Resources Canada and Dows Lake to the south.
I would love to play with air quality and respitory illness data and live feed these quantitative bits into a qualitatively comprehensible form such as an esthetically pleasing installation. The piece could reflect the physiological sensation of loss of breath, represent the affect of a good AQ day or bad AQ day, drowning, or submersion, it would be beautiful on a clear day and be ugly or stressed on a bad day, it would readily and meaningfully communicate what is going on globally and interconnect local + immediate activities that influence local and global climate change. And so on…
It would need to be an artifact people want to see, look forward to seeing and where they wonder - what the … on the corner of Booth on my way home is doing today! A subtle, meaningful, political, symbolic statement.
sigh! I feel better now!